Monday, February 15, 2016

The Undiscovered Country

To stave off the flood of comments (one of which would be a 50% increase over the life of this blog), the title does not refer to my death of that of any of the characters in The Chronicles of Reztap. However, the nuts and bolts of the published series itself are undergoing an extensive shift. The books themselves are experiencing a death and a rebirth of sorts.



First, an acknowledgement to Megan LaFoyett (then Director of Publishing) and Jeff Hastings (Owner) of Chart House Press. Without them, book zero of The Chronicles of Reztap, Mishaps and Mayhem, would never have come into being. Megan requested it as a forward copy edition to be sent to book sellers as a kind of pre-marketing push. Unfortunately, her involvement with Chart House Press ceased before that aspect of book zero could come to fruition. Still, those previously untold early adventures would likely not seen the light of day any time without a push to get them written and published. Second, getting book one into a professional shape and appearance is due in no small effort to the expertise of many others working behind the scenes at Chart House Press, from the internal layout to the revised cover design, the second edition of The Adventures of Reztap was a sparkling shiny present compared to the clumsy first edition I pushed out years ago. Thank you both for your involvement in getting Tar and Gorth out to be seen and enjoyed by many more readers than ever before.

Chart House Press has since adjusted their charter to be exclusively pushing non-fiction books from here on out. Even as we speak, both books, Mishaps and Mayhem & The Adventures of Reztap. are no longer available on Amazon. As much as it pains me to see it, I realize it is also for the best. Given their new direction, Chart House Press is not be able to devote the time, energy and expertise The Chronicles of Reztap series is due. This is a mutual agreement - I wasn't just shut out of Chart House Press. We came to an agreement that the book series would be better served elsewhere.

This pushes me into the Undiscovered Country. By default, I need to get The Chronicles of Reztap published by another publisher, and not just self-published. However, I don't want to get put in a bind again with my books being essentially out of print before they've had a decent chance to catch on. My only recourse - start my own publishing company. It's the only way to ensure I retain the rights to my books and can keep them published continually from here on out. A perfect solution with only two drawbacks - time and money. I literally have no time to devote fairly to this endeavor, and that is largely driven by the fact that I have no money I can dedicate to getting this started right now. Seriously, starting one company at a time is enough of a drain on my time and money. Starting a second would be a quick trip to the poor house.

Unfortunately, that means, at least for a time, there will be no copies, electronically or otherwise, of either book zero, one or two available. What you can get now is what you'll be able to get for at least a few months if not a full year. I'm committed to getting everything going as soon as possible, but that could easily push into next year.

I wish it wasn't so, but that's where I'm at. I'll need time to get both financial and professional resources gathered to launch the publishing company in a manner that will ensure it produces quality products. This will not be an overnight effort pushing out a substandard product. For the fans out there, and I've actually met a few, I'm sorry to say it will be a while before I can get everything running again but once I do, I can assure you it will remain a steady company that will keep the products alive and available.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks and months as a Reztapian phoenix rises from the ashes of this expiration. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Thank you for you time and dedication.

Regards,
Artemus

Monday, January 4, 2016

May The Farce Be With You!

I'm sure that title has already been used before, but it's incredibly appropriate to my work. As most of you know, not only was Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a major influence on my work, but the original Star Wars trilogy figured heavily into it as well. So it was with mixed emotions that I attended the latest movie, The Force Awakens. Oh, by the way, this will be a SPOILER-FREE review.



There was, to be true, a LOT of hype surrounding this return to the Star Wars universe. So many factors figured into the release - the new owners, Disney, had paid $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm and the future rights to all the franchise movie and even more lucrative merchandising (and, actually, a whole lot more - it includes Indiana Jones for instance!) To be fair, I think George Lucas got a fair price. There aren't many movie makers who can make such a deal and become billionaires overnight. In addition to that, J.J. Abrams would be directing the first film - there are haters and lovers of his work. I'm happy to report there was nary a lens flare in The Force Awakens. I think I can reveal that as a non-spoiler. Indeed, it wasn't spoiled by lens flares! There was also the big event of getting many of the original trilogy stars involved reprising their roles set many years after the events in Return of the Jedi.

There was so much to be excited about. Truth be told, I was interested to see what these stars brought back to the screen. I admired there contributions in the original trilogy. I'd watched there careers rise and fall, although I don't think Harrison Ford's ever fell, to be honest. I wasn't disappointed with their return - they all did fantastic jobs with their roles and I enjoyed seeing them again.

The new stars were similarly very adept and convincing in their roles. While I had heard some grumbling about the new stars, including people complaining they didn't know how to act, I didn't find that to be the case. Having been both in front and behind the screen (I won't go into that now), I can tell a bit about the job their doing, and they did superb work.

The look and feel of the movie were as promised - real sets, minimal digital effects as had clogged the "Episodes Which Shall Not Be Named!" (Thought I'd mix a little Harry Potter in there for good measure. I'm nothing if not abysmally non-linear.) I think the directing was good. The script itself had some nice bits in it.

So with all that wonderful stuff going for it, why did I not leave the theater shouting at the top of my lungs how great the movie was? Everything about The Force Awakens was executed competently, yet I felt as if something was missing that should have been there. I believe the root cause of this disparity has to do with the requirements this movie had to meet - and there were too many of them!

It had to marry the original trilogy with the new cast and story. This meant weaving in bits of the old story that everyone knew and delivering a new quest for the newer characters to embark upon. So, it wasn't exactly a new set of movies on its own, which Episode 1-3 didn't have to worry about carrying on. Not that I was thrilled with Episodes 1-3, they were the result of a man who no longer had the invigorating vision and enthusiasm of his youth and was too in love with technology and his desire to paint a grand picture. But this isn't a criticism of George Lucas' second Star Wars trilogy - there isn't enough room in my blog for such a treatise.

The Force Awakens had to deliver for both the old fans and the new fans. The bulk of this strategy meant compromise in so many ways with the story and bringing characters back in regardless of if they'd be meaningful to the overall story. Look, I love the nostalgic feel of bringing the old characters back, especially with all the original actors. But, I feel their inclusion wound up putting too many central characters in the film. Was there another way to do it? That's the clincher, I'm not sure there was.

The new story line had to be put in place as well. We got the new elements of darkness and light baselined very well in the movie. At the heart of it, though, it was too light. There needed to be more about the new characters and how they got where they were and what led them to change and start their road to redemption or damnation. Was there another way to do it? Yes, but not in the running time you need to create this new story while also including elements of the old. In short, there just wasn't enough time allotted to do this story justice.

That, for me at least, explains why I wasn't as thrilled with the movie. It was the actors, it wasn't the execution, it wasn't the direction and it wasn't even the screenplay itself. The main problem was, it simply had too many things to do and, I'll be darned if they didn't manage to cram them all in. But to me, it felt a little crowded and not as clean as I'd like.

Who do I blame? Actually, I blame us, the fans. We demand a certain due when it comes to characters we love, and there was really no way to pull this off without including a welcome return to the old characters while also introducing the new ones. After all, the original franchise was never really written with the intention of bringing the old stars back to reprise their roles. It was written to be a trilogy with a beginning, middle and end. This new trilogy, if I can actually call it that since I'm certain there will be quite a few more than just three additional films, has started off a bit crowded, but I have hopes it will streamline into something new and more dynamic. I am cautiously optimistic.

While I won't go see it again in the theaters, I will definitely be watching The Force Awakens again when it comes out on DVD. I think I might like it better the second time around. Honestly, I did enjoy the film, just not as much as I'd expected. It is still awesome to see, so don't let my review stop you from checking it out.

Regards,
Artemus

Monday, December 14, 2015

Entering Limbo

I admit, I felt that particular leg of my foundation in writing shaking quite a bit since the loss of the Director of Publishing who had championed me to my publisher. Loss as in no longer working there, not because she had passed. I now begin the strange journey of transition from being a published writer to being, well, something else.

I felt the loss more acutely when the Director of Publishing left. She was the creative spark that directed the fiction side of the business. Without her, all the fiction titles and authors have floundered a bit. My excitement to join the publishing company had more to do with access to real marketing and publishing expertise than it did with the "reputation" of being a professionally published author. Just when my book came out, my champion disappeared and so did the push that was supposed to come with my debut novel.

Still, I can say I've sold about as many books in my first year as an average book by any author this year. many authors have sold less and a few have sold more. I've gained experience in web site design (to a degree), seen some very well done cover designs and book layouts (enough to know I need someone else to do them), and a splash of insight into book marketing. It has been a great learning experience, but I'm now at a point where I can't exactly take advantage of that experience and move forward. Limbo has its drawbacks.



My options from here forth are to find another publisher or create my own publishing company. Actually, the third option is simply to go back to self publishing which is just a step down from creating my own publishing company. I honestly had another publisher lined up, but things have changed for them since our last chat a few months ago and they're no longer an option for the foreseeable future. It may be best to go it alone, take on all the pieces of self publishing and simply get the thing done on my own. The advantages are that I'll have complete control over every aspect of the books' life and marketing. The disadvantages are essentially the same - all of those bits and pieces will take time I simply haven't had in my schedule to take over.

What I didn't have before is access to people who controlled every aspect of building a professional quality book. With the contacts I have now, I feel confident I can arrange those pieces and get them into place. The marketing contact I found is probably the biggest key. Still, the production of this book series at this point is a vanity project of sorts now. That's the reality of the situation. Have people commented that they loved the book? Absolutely! For fans of that genre, it's really spot on. The question of how to reach my target audience that I haven't met yet without spending a ton of money is the real conundrum. I suppose it's the same problem most self published authors face - how to reach their audience and not go broke in the process.

In the mean time, The Adventures of Reztap and Mishaps and Mayhem are still available for sale, and I still get paid royalties for them. It's actually unclear at the moment if I'll be pulling them from Chart House Press or leaving them there. All signs seem to point to the publisher wanting to relinquish control as soon as possible. What files and data I'll receive in the process in unclear. Even book two is in a basically completed stage, just waiting on me to get the cash together to push for the marketing reviews of The Adventures of Reztap and, possibly, Mishaps and Mayhem as well.

New job, bills stack up and the cost for getting review copies sent out seems further and further away every day. I'm taking a deep breath and pushing forward. I want to get those reviews online before March 2016. I'd like to get book two reviewed shortly thereafter and published some time in 2016, hopefully by the summer. I just don't want links to point to a book that's no longer there! Hence, limbo.

Wish me luck and keep on reading!

Regards,
Artemus

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book 2 - Pre-marketing Options

Here it is, a mere month before book 2, Reztap and The Quest for the Insane Moth, would have gone on sale and I'm still mulling over my pre-marketing options. I've learned that I've already accomplished some things, I'm right on track with others, and hopelessly behind the eight ball about to get sunk in a corner pocket with the other things.

The rudest note was checking out this link (http://allindiewriters.com/book-marketing-timeline-from-pre-launch-to-post-launch/) outlining what I should do to pre-market my book and when. The timeline starts nine months before book launch! Yeah, that's so not happening. Still, glancing through the list, I did see that I'd gotten some things done already, although that was primarily because they were done for the first book.

Get a MailChimp account - check. Send emails out bi-weekly or once a month - damn. Already missed on that one, mostly because I don't want to fill my the inboxes of my minuscule mailing list with pointless chatter. So, guess I'll be getting a pre-launch email out to them so they know what's going on at least. Putting that on my To Do List, honestly.

Then I'm down to building lists of things, most of which I'm not sure exist or I can reasonably find. Finally, get an author head shot. Thank goodness that's already done. I'm going to be a searching maniac the next couple of months trying to catch up on the other lists...and some of it won't matter because it's already way too late...but not for book 3!

However, with all this insane pre-marketing activity supposedly going into place, I've had to slow roll the entire machine. The "would have gone on sale" is the key note here. Book two is done and in the bag (writing, editing, cover art, book formatting, etc.), but I had to slow everything down for two reasons - one, I want to do things right and there are some prerequisites that still have to be put in place for that to happen. The bigger reason is: I'm simply out of cash.

Starting over professionally and financially since moving here has put us on the edge. It will pass, but it pushes off the publishing date of book two to an as yet undetermined date. I've been advised by a marketing contractor to get "professional" reviews of both the prequel (Mishaps and Mayhem) and book one (The Adventures of Reztap) before I forward book two for the same treatment. All of that will be a three to four month process. I hope to get it started within the month of November, but I can't make any guarantees.

Which puts this whole matter into perspective. What have I learned from this extensive process that perhaps you too, the reader, may be able to apply to your own book marketing adventures?

1. Book marketing is key to a successful book launch.
2. Continuing book marketing has some value but falls off after time.
3. If you're doing a series, get the first books reviewed first; don't start in the middle.
4. There is a LOT to book marketing - see the list above and plan well ahead of time.
5. Marketing is an uncomfortable requirement for someone who just wants to write - but if you want to sell your books as well as write them, it is a necessary evil.

This just relates to marketing. I saw an article that bemoaned the amount of book marketing going on in social media and the article author said "Just write a good book and it will sell itself." Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this. It was from a book author who had already written several books and had an audience already. I wondered what he did when he "first" started out? Not advertise or try to market his book at all and it magically sold well? I think not. Even a well written book has to be pushed onto the market with some kind of publicity or, quite simply, NO ONE will know it exists!

So, write your book, get it edited professionally, and start the marketing process. It's a long one, but don't be discouraged. It won't happen fast or overnight - it takes pre-planning and discipline.

Regards,
Artemus



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Art of Elevating Minor Characters - Arrow

I recently abandoned my in depth study of all things job related and sat down to enjoy something I'd been putting off for a long time - watching Arrow. Specifically, the first seven episodes (I would've watched more, but sleep called my name and I answered.) I gotta hand it to CW - they really know how to make a superhero show exciting, regardless of the elevation of that character in the DC comic universe. I think they've risen to the challenge of putting DC on the front lines of entertainment akin to Marvel's dominance in the movie realm. As I watched the show, I realized a few key points to take away from their successful formula.



The Flawed Hero - Oliver Queen is flawed. He starts out as a flawed brat and undergoes a physical and mental transformation to become a flawed hero. He's pretty good at putting bad guys away, but everything else around him is literally spinning into a whirlwind of crap. He doesn't have all the answers. His solutions aren't perfect, but they're the best he can come up with given his circumstances.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - The CW really went out of their way to through Oliver Queen into an exquisite mess. The lost love, the cheated girlfriend, the broken heart, the best friend dating your girl behind your back (okay, while you were presumed dead), and then, unlucky in love, falling for a dangerous criminal who has a vigilante heart just like his? Wow! Nicely crafted!

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - Family betrayals, secret assassinations, Russian mob ties, and all things in between, around, above and below! It's a delicate balance and intricate dance to include all the elements and keep everything straight. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to catching up.

So, why do I think all these things are so great? Obviously, the viewing public likes them or Arrow wouldn't be in it's fourth season. But that's not near the key reason why I'm so entertained. No, it is because, unwittingly, I've woven the same elements in The Chronicles of Reztap! Let's break it down, shall we?

The Flawed Hero - it would be hard for anyone to argue the Tar Reztap doesn't start out seriously flawed. He does change throughout the series, of course, but he still manages to screw things up even with the best of intentions. It wouldn't be funny if bad things didn't keep happening, but I can't just put him in constant peril without some reward for the reader. Tar and his crew of misfits all change and progress, some for better, some for worse.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - Sure, you see Tar going through some confusing times with Princess Slurk in The Adventures of Reztap, and there is more messed up fun in the prequel Mishaps and Mayhem. While it isn't out yet, and I'm sorry for the delay, you'll find things get messy for other members of the Namreg crew.

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - I'm going to break this to you as gently as possible - there are things woven throughout the entire book series that you will miss out on if you don't read every book from prequel to finish. I have six books planned (not including the all important prequel) and I'm in this for the long haul. There are loose ends, dangling plot lines and other narrative devices meant to keep the reader coming back for more. I'm not totally a doof, though. Each book has its own beginning, middle and end, but there are elements in every book that tie-in to future events. There are really no wasted characters or events, although I'll admit there will likely be no future impact on the story lines as a result of a night with a bottle of Lobotomy Slammer.

In short, I enjoy when writers take the same approach to storytelling that I do. I can only hope I get a fraction of the readers in comparison to the watchers of Arrow. It's a good show and I'm looking forward to catching up a little more on Netflix.

Regards,
Artemus

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Bump and Grind!

Admit it - it was an enticing title! I'm becoming a click bait master. Seriously, though, it's really all about the grind. Not any bump explored in this article, though that in itself would be interesting but a bit off mark for my blog. The grind comes from breaking into a new job field which takes a lot of time, energy and concentration. I'd be whining and moaning about how this cuts into my writing time if it wasn't for the fact that A) the marketing of my second book is still crawling to a start and B) I need the funds to get the marketing started, which requires becoming good at my new career. It's quite the cart before the horse argument. None of this brings my writing to the fore - in fact, it's really depressed my writing time and production to, well, basically nothing. But, let's be honest, no matter how much I write, it's going to take a long time for my writing to pay the bills, if it ever does. Luckily, that isn't what drives my writing in the first place, so you can look forward to me completing this series within the next couple of years - I'm simply driven to do so!

Launching into a new career is exciting and frightening all at the same time. You see the fruits of the labors of the veterans around you, realize it will take some time to get to that level and, oh my, how am I going to put food on the table? I've embraced the new job and put all my time and energy into making it work. I've been lucky to have such great team members sharing their expertise and showing me the ropes. They've really built an incredible teaching culture here. Even so, it's been a bit of touch and go with the finances. My checking account has dropped below zero more than once in the last three months, and that's not something I've seen happen since the I was laid off ten years ago. This career is all sales and commission. There is no salary. You take a break, you starve (unless you've been so successful, you've built up a hefty nest egg to take time off). I have no nest egg. It's actually going to be a sprint for the next year or two just to keep the creditors at bay. It's frightening that I can't just show up to work, "dial it in," put my butt in a chair and coast for the day if I need to. There's no such luxury in sales. On the other hand, there's thrill in the hunt, adrenaline in the chase and the promise of a reward if you've done your job well and right.

Now, if I could just time travel to where I'll be in six months or a year from now, I'll be walking in and closing like a champion (a possible exaggeration). As it is, I'm still a newbie. I'm hoping I can last to the finish line of the first year, when most new agents have given up and dropped out. Can I hold it together without breaking from the pack and running for the hills? I will say I have one thing going for me - I'm as stubborn as a mule when it comes to sticking it out and giving my all towards success. I've risen to the top tier of pretty much every job I've held by just staying in there and doing a good job, working my hardest and not losing sight of the goal. I can do this if I can just hold out and get there.

Let's drop into the energy side of the equation. I'm middle aged, so I'm not quite as energetic as the spring chickens around me. That may seem to put me on the fast track to failure, but while I'm not the fastest or most energetic, that isn't what actually wins this game. The young look for the quick reward nowadays. If they try it for a few weeks or even just days and don't see immediate reward, some of them are out the door onto another job that looks more promising. I know the value of the slow and steady progression to not just sales but also expertise in the field. Getting to know your products, the sales cycle and your customers takes a while to discover and absorb until you feel like a sales call is second nature, overcoming an objection is child's play and riding the wave to success seems like it was always destined to be. There's a real value to seeing the veterans in the office and knowing they were in the same boat as you when they started. They overcame their inexperience and blossomed into successful professionals. I'm banking on my persistence and tenacity to get me there as well.

I'm fortunate that I'm middle-aged and not a little more advanced in age. It hasn't affected my memory; I'm still able to do the repetitious study and practice that begets expertise. Were I to try starting this career in my later years, I'm not sure my mind and focus would be up to the task. In truth, the only thing I do wish is that I'd started a little earlier in life. Then, I'd be enjoying the fruits of my labors instead of just starting up the hill. Unfortunately, there's only so much focus to go around -  my concentration has to be centered on my job and that definitely affects my writing.

I started book three shortly before I left Texas. It had a promising start, but the stress and activities surrounding the move (and marketing book one) simply drove my concentration from the writing that needed to be done to progress on book three. Truth be told, it doesn't matter in the short term. Book two is months away from being published, although it has been completed. It's now moving at the typical glacial pace of a major publisher, although it's a smaller press involved. There's really no rush to complete book three. Hence, I get to concentrate on becoming better at insurance sales in the mean time.

In all honestly, the transition has been refreshing. Writing led to my time in the acting profession, which increased my improvisational skills and, really, that's at the core of making cold calls on a telephone. The split second reactions you make are at the core of making the first step in a sale - the appointment. My time in IT led to both looking for solutions and handling customer issues which is really at the heart of the sales cycle of finding out what the client needs and then presenting them suitable options.I love helping people and this job actually gets to the core of that desire - I help people transfer the risks they sometimes don't even realize they have to the insurance company. They get protection and piece of mind.

And in the end, doesn't that make it worth the grind?

Regards,
Artemus

P.S. You may have noticed me having a bit of fun with the links in the blog. Some are spot on and others take a bit of thinking to connect what I mean with the link. Just wanted to show you I'm still thinking and trying marketing all at the same time!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pants Around My Ankles!

If there's one thing I've learned in this world, there are fewer things that make you feel like an imbecile than starting a new job. With the remote possibility of getting got dropping trow to take engage in an emergency bowel evacuation (thank you, maximum punch homemade burritos), nothing makes you feel as exposed and ignorant as trying to accomplish something in a brand new occupation. I've had the profound pleasure of sticking my foot in my mouth, looking like I know what I'm doing and fooling myself into thinking I'm gonna nail this sucker!



I'm rebooting my professional life as an insurance salesman. I can hear the collective sucking in of the internet's breath now. Stop it! As I've been deep in the bowels of the humor and entertainment industry, I've heard the jokes, complaints and bemused guffaws at my chosen profession. Honestly, I've heard them for every profession, so in reality, I'm a bit immune to any off-hand criticisms, especially from armchair non-employees. Unfortunately, I did manage to step my foot in it recently on an all-day bender on the phones. I was calling leads, trying to make appointments to come out and see folks when I got the daughter of a deceased woman answering the phone. It was the fourth or fifth phone number I'd dialed where the unfortunate target of my calls had passed away. Unfortunately, I was a bit unfocused by this point. The first thing that came to my mind was "Fantastic, another lead that has me calling people who've passed on!" I think that is actually a reasonable thing to run through someone's mind. Brace yourself - this is where it gets awful. The first thing out of my mouth? "Fantastic."

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet? I just told a still grieving daughter (or granddaughter, I'm not sure which) that it was "Fantastic" that her relative had passed away four months ago. Not surprisingly, she didn't think so. I spent the next thirty seconds apologizing profusely and getting my body as deep under the nearest rock as possible. After getting of the phone with this young lady, I turned the phone off and sat thinking about my idiocy. I found my idiocy to be palpable and engorged. I considering a brief visit to a medical clinic or possible dousing myself with industrial hemorrhoid shrinkage formula. That's all well and good, but what did I learn from my experience?

I'm actually an incredibly nice and caring person. How could I make such an astounding mistake in manners and sensibility? Fatigue, mostly. I had been on the phone dialing like crazy for hours and hadn't taken a break. I learned my lesson and now I take a break every hour, get up, walk around and stretch. Sometimes, I even partake of a refreshing beverage. I learned later that this is a necessary practice for everyone, not just something my addled brain must utilize to prevent tossing emotional daggers to the hearts of those who've lost loved ones.

I've chatted with folks about insurance, although I'm far from an expert. I have a long way to go to be able to handily riff through the complexities of insurance and annuities without pausing to look through a manual to get the full story across. However, even with the limited (although very intense) knowledge I've attained in the past few weeks, I'm head and shoulders above the level of understanding most people have about their own insurance and needs. It's not just the truth about insurance but pretty much any industry. While I was in IT, I knew plenty of others in the IT industry who were more knowledgeable than I about many computer-based subjects. However, I was head and shoulders above most normal people. The more you study, the more you immerse yourself, the better an expert you can be in whatever you choose to do professionally. Honestly, anyone can do this with most any profession. There aren't a lot who have the patience or perseverance, which is why so many quit before they reach the point where they're good enough to make a living and even excel at it.

After two weeks of studying and testing to get a license, and another two weeks of on-the-job training with what I consider some of the top experts in my field, I'm feeling fairly confident that I can do this. I'm about to enter three intensive days of training, but I'm already chomping at the bit to go out there on my own and make some solo sales. Of course, I realize I'm not really quite ready, but I'm fooling myself into thinking I am. I need to take a breath, put my nose into the books (in this case forms and instructions), and continue to partner with the best agents around to complete my internship. I won't lie. It's hard to hold back. I'm a natural at talking to people and finding out what they need. But I need to be more than a natural. I need to be an expert so I can guide them there with the best knowledge and offer them the best options. They're my clients and I care about them. So, I need to do my best to study and excel so I can offer them the best service and products.

When you think about it, isn't this a mirror of what the best in all professional fields do? Don't just give it a passing effort. Really dig in and study up on your job, Become an expert in your field so you can do the best job possible. That's the best way to succeed and the best way to be a fully contributing member of society. IMHO.

I truly believe I've done this with my novel writing. I think my scripts are up to snuff as well, but I've learned that all the hard work in writing can't equal success. You have to become an expert in so many different professions to truly excel at being an author. I'm still getting the hang of marketing. The hardest thing about it is, there are a lot of theories and suggestions, but no one has a textbook or solid list of instructions telling you how to get your book out there. It's tough. I hope all the aspiring writers out there realize that the first part of being a successful author is excelling at the craft of writing. The second piece is excelling at marketing and promotion. I'm not giving up on that target, but I find it interesting that it's been easier to become an insurance agent than it has to be a successful author. I'll be at it for a year or two before I feel I've really nailed it down, but I've been writing for over a decade and success is still just out of reach.

It's been a sobering realization about how tough some professions can be when they don't seem to be that complicated on the surface. I hope some of you can get some inspiration from both my flawed execution and my perseverance in the face of professional adversity. Keep trying and stick with it folks! Oh, and try to keep your pants on while you're thinking about dragons.

All the best,
Artemus